Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, eir and An Garda Síochána launch campaign to tackle cyber bullying

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone joined eir and An Garda Síochána to launch a campaign to help tackle the increasing problem of cyber bullying in Ireland.

(Tuesday, 5th February 2019) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone joined eir and An Garda Síochána to launch a campaign to help tackle the increasing problem of cyber bullying in Ireland. Cyber bullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. The crucial message shared today, on Safer Internet Day 2019, is don't ignore it, report it. Working in partnership with An Garda Síochána, children’s services, charities and campaigners for legislation change, eir has produced an information leaflet and website to help inform parents, guardians and young people on steps to take if they are concerned about cyber bullying or online harassment. Although more prevalent amongst young people, it can happen to anyone at any age. Cyber bullying is intended to inflict harm or discomfort to others. 

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone said: "Everyone has a role to play in ensuring the safety of our children online, this includes protection from bullying. I welcome the joint initiative of the Gardaí, eir and campaigners to increase public awareness with a campaign which will help inform children, young people and parents. This partnership is providing practical information which will act as an easy accessible guide for parents. I encourage all who work with children to check out this important guide. Bullying in all its forms is unacceptable – whether on or offline, that’s the message we must get out loud and clear on this Safer Internet Day."

 Speaking at the launch of the campaign, eir CEO Carolan Lennon said: "The Internet and how we use it is evolving every day. We are connected everywhere and at all times. But legislation is struggling to keep pace with this ever-developing world of online services, apps and social media. Cyber bullying is a relatively new issue but one with potentially tragic consequences. Companies like eir, who can meaningfully help to tackle this issue, must do so. We are currently working on changing our terms and conditions for new customers to include our zero-tolerance approach to bullying and harassment. We will also assist An Garda Síochána in cases of cyber bullying when needed and provide guidance to our customers by means of this information campaign and a dedicated webpage." 

Campaigner Jackie Fox lost her 21 year old daughter Nicole to suicide last year following a prolonged campaign of bullying and harassment. Jackie has been campaigning to make cyber bullying a crime. Jackie said: “Cyber bullying can have a devastating effect on those targeted, particularly more vulnerable people such as children and young adults. The current legislation is outdated, written for a time before social media and messaging apps, and in need of urgent reform. Today is an important step in the right direction because we are highlighting the issue and the support available. We probably can’t end cyber bullying completely but we can reduce its frequency and its harmful effects through education, discussion and a zero-tolerance approach like eir’s. If we can stop one more family having to go through what we went through then this will be worth it." 

Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll of An Garda Síochána: "An Garda Síochána is aware that cyber bullying can have a significant impact on people’s lives and is committed to tackling it in an impactful way. For this purpose, we welcome the opportunity to join with eir in implementing an initiative designed to prevent the occurrence of cyber bullying. We would encourage victims of cyber bullying to report the bullies and provide us with the evidence which will help to ensure other people will not become victims of this terrible behaviour." 

The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017 is currently making its way through the Oireachtas. The legislation also known as ‘Coco’s Law’ in memory of Jackie’s daughter Nicole will consolidate and reform the criminal law concerning harmful communications, including electronic communications. eir's Tackle Cyber Bullying information leaflet is available in all eir stores and downloadable online from www.eir.ie/endcyberbullying